Audi Made A Film For RS Fans To Celebrate The New RS6 Avant’s US Debut
It’s a great time to be an Audi RS enthusiast. Finally, the much-loved station wagon of our dreams is coming to the US. The Audi RS 6 Avant will be equipped with a world-conquering 4.0-liter V8 capable of producing 591hp and 590lb-ft of torque. This is the wagon we have been pining for to put us on equal standing with our European counterpoints. Why all the excitement? It’s more than just the sharp looks of the chiseled wagon, it’s the backstory, which some might call legendary. Before we go into how this uber wagon came to be, watch this video from Audi called: An Avant Story
After all but singlehandedly changing the definition of a competitive WRC car during the sport’s ruthless evolution into the Group B era in the mid ’80s, Audi’s next move was to deploy its rally-proven Quattro systems in sportscar and touring car racing series in North America and Europe. The technology that changed the game on gravel, snow, and dirt also translated into wins on smooth surfaces, and Audi factory teams competing in IMSA and DTM series earned more championship silverware for the growing collection back in Ingolstadt.
In the midst of this successful shift from rallying to circuit racing, the company directors made the prudent decision to start work on a new line of high-performance road cars in the early 1990s, and the resultant S and RS models provided Audi’s rapidly accumulated motorsport technology with more places to trickle into with fewer filters to pass through on the way down.
The presence of these new halo cars in brochures and showrooms added momentum to the shifting perception of an automaker that heretofore wasn’t known for building fast cars since it was known as Auto Union, and if the Audi racing programs in the 1980s and 1990s promoted the brand’s image from conservative sedan builder to international trophy winner, the S and RS models would be there to serve as road-going reminders.
The idea behind the cars was straightforward: pluck certain platforms from the company’s existing showroom lineup and let the engineers at the in-house go-fast division—quattro GmbH, renamed to Audi Sport GmbH in 2016—imbue them with newfound sports purpose by way of hot motors, taut suspension, and the optics to match. The Audi S2 emerged first, a stubby but well-proportioned half-coupe, half-fastback with 220hp and four drive wheels. It was derived from the Audi 80 Coupe and launched as a 1991 model year car. Even though it’s aging better than anybody would have guessed ten years ago, nobody really remembers the S2 outside of Audizine readers because the Audi 80 platform also gave us the unforgettable RS2.
Three years after the S2’s debut, the second production model bearing quattro GmbH fingerprints was ready. This, the RS2, was the first Audi road car to wear the RS letters designating rennsport, but for a vehicle that was meant to demonstrate the company’s high-performance engineering potential, this was a nontraditional choice. First of all, it was a station wagon—“Avant” in Audi’s terminology, “not a sports car” in just about everyone else’s—and second, it was developed with significant input from another German automaker, Porsche.
But both of these facts have only contributed to the RS2’s regard among car enthusiasts. It was peerless then, and to date there is nothing that can be considered a direct successor. This was the unique result of Audi trying to expand its scope, Porsche trying to find new ways to pay the bills, and the two companies’ taking advantage of their comparative ones to create something special.
On paper though, it’s just too bizarre. Here was a compact entry-level Audi dressed up to look like a five-door Porsche 993 with enough of the two companies’ combined brainpower under its boxy bodywork that it could smoke just about anything in a classic stoplight-to-stoplight. It was a car you could enjoy on alpine passes and still take on a ski holiday. The 2.2L turbocharged inline-five produced 315hp and helped the RS2 claw its way from 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds on dry pavement. You could spec one in Nogaro Blue with matching blue Alcantara Recaros inside for the whole family. It was a riot.
Less than 3,000 of them were built for the ’94 and ’95 model years, and not a single RS2 was shipped to North America by the factory. Thanks to emissions standards and a general car-buying population here that thinks of station wagons as effeminate SUVs, Audi never planned on giving us any anyway.
Then they pulled the same stunt at the end of the decade when they built the first RS4. It only came in Avant form, and again, never to our shores. We had to watch from afar (on YouTube) as the lucky rest-of-world got to play with twin-turbo widebody wagons that could be ordered in school bus yellow. It’s only a few more years before these hit the 25-year mark and start showing up next to America’s RS2 ex-pats en masse.
The next milestone in Avant history came with the first RS6, which was built on the larger C5 platform that underpinned the Audi A6s, and so fit in nicely alongside the RS4 in the catalog. It was first available as a 2002 model year vehicle, and like all RS Audis before it, was only available in Avant form. The exclusivity of body style was brief though, as a sedan version followed within a year, and this time, it came to the States. The E55 AMG and E39 M5 finally had a competitor in the 4.2L twin-turbo V8-powered RS6 and its 444 horsepower, but we still wanted the Avant that we still couldn’t have.
The next two RS6 generations were offered in Avant and sedan forms, but the understated C6 RS6 and its exotic V10 powertrain, nor the C7 and its twin-turbo 550hp V8 were offered in the US. If you look at the lopsided ratio of enthusiast praise and sales figures for the CTS-V Wagon that filled the fast-car-with-a-long-roof segment by itself here in the late 2000s, you can see why the Avants stayed away. Missing out on the RS6 sedans wasn’t fun either, but we did have the RS4 four-doors to plug that gap at least. Though, of course, we didn’t get any of those as Avants. Not the B7 generation and its naturally-aspirated V8, not the B8 and it’s even more powerful naturally-aspirated V8, and not the current twin-turbo V6 B9 generation either.
Thankfully, the 25-year import rule allowed us to start importing the Avant that made us pine for the rest of them this year, the RS2, and next year we can complete something like a full-circle, as we will finally have the chance to buy factory-fresh RS Avants. As you may already know, Audi Sport is bringing the new RS6 Avant to America in 2020. Even if you aren’t in the market for a five-door wagon that costs six figures and does the sixty sprint in less than four seconds, this is good news for the future of Cool Cars Coming To America.
Born into a world very different from the one that welcomed the RS2 a quarter of a century ago, the new car still echoes its distant relative in the sense of radical upgrade. Case in point, the new RS6 shares just four body panels with the standard C6 Avant: the two front doors, roof, and rear hatch. The bodywork is about as supercar as a station wagon can get, but it’s doubtful that anyone will refer to it as such. For anyone who does question the potency of the Avant shape, the twin-turbo four-liter V8 and its 590 horsepower make for an emphatic answer.